Shereen Kukha-Bryson is a person of the prairies and the mountains. Born and raised in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan – on Treaty 6 territory – she feels most connected to the land when she is under an expansive and expressive sky. She is also, however, rooted within the mountainous home of her father in Iraqi Kurdistan, a place rich with family narratives and histories. Her Saskatchewan-Kurdish experiences have greatly shaped her engagement in diverse cultural world views and have kindled her passion for learning more about multi-vocal cultural relationships.
With the support and teachings from a number of mentors, Shereen is currently working in school gardening initiatives, which explore cultural relationships and food security. Children's and youth's enthusiasm for and knowledge of engaging with plants greatly inspires and energizes Shereen. She hopes to continue co-creating learning gardens, which are culturally inclusive, with educators and young people across her communities.
When Shereen is not walking with a jaunty step in minus-30 weather, she can be found drinking gallons of coffee or poring over fantasy novels with great gusto. She is very honoured to participate in the 2015-2016 Next Up program!
Caitlin is a Registered Dietitian, having graduated from the U of S Nutrition program with Distinction in 2015. During her time in school Caitlin found her passion was in the Social Determinants of Health. She was drawn to the areas of nutrition in which food intersects with social justice, particularly food security and body positivity/Health At Every Size. She sees that these issues are part of broader problems in our society, and wants to work to make change at the root. She is grateful to be part of Next Up, so she can further her understanding of various social and environmental issues, and develop skills to help her create positive change.
Caitlin has a strong interest in research, policy development, and best practice. She currently supports research in the U of S Nutrition Division as well as with Healthy Start, a provincial health promotion initiative. She also takes on contract work in the community providing nutrition education and cooking classes for various local organizations.
She is happiest when she’s busy, so she currently sits on the board of directors at OPIRG-Carleton, is an executive with the Carleton Muslim Student’s Association, and is a member of Students Against Israeli Apartheid on top of being a full-time student. In her free time she can be found either watching re-runs of The Office on Netflix or sleeping.
Veronica Ledesma is a first generation Canadian from Latin American roots; she is also a student at Carleton University, ardently focusing on her double major in Sociology and Communications at the undergraduate level. She is passionate about furthering her education and knowledge base on both a theoretical and practical level. In the future, she would like to expand her work to an international stage.
She has been involved with animal welfare and furthering the humane treatment of animals. Veronica aspires to work with youth and children and find ways to provide quality education and a better life for the next generation. She has always and will continue to raise awareness on the plight of refugees and hopes to assist groups working to provide aid in refugee crisis. In her spare time, she enjoys doing oil paintings and kickboxing.
Kaffie Abdirashid is an impending graduate of the Conflict Studies and Human Rights program at the University of Ottawa. Kaffie's work has focused on ending violence against women, but she is also interested in efforts towards penal reform and abolition. She is an avid reader, and though she has lived most of her life in Ottawa, she enjoys travelling. In all her efforts towards social, economic and environmental change, Kaffie continually strives to cultivate a community-oriented grassroots approach that re-centres marginalized groups.
Natasha Mendonca is a graduate of the International Studies program at York University’s Glendon College. As someone with multiple intersecting identities, she is interested in work that aims to undo oppression through building solidarity among diverse groups. She is eager to learn about the colonial histories that have shaped her life and heritage and is concerned with addressing their role in the current transnational issues we face.
Leigh is a very-outgoing Two-Spirit, Nehiyaw-Metis from Chitek Lake Indian Reserve, SK-Treaty 6 territory and Metis homeland. He has lived across Canada from Victoria, B.C to Halifax, N.S.
In Leigh’s life, he’s always been fighting to address mental health issues & has co-led numerous Youth-lead Initiatives in his community, addressing issues around Suicide and Preservation of Culture. Proud of his Aboriginal heritages, he’s a carrier of TEK (Traditional Ecological Knowledge), which he loves sharing. For the past few years he’s been working with youth and addressing Indigenous issues around language retention and reconnecting people back to the land.
In addition to his job as a P/T Naval Combat Information Operator within the Canadian Armed Forces, he is in his 3rd Year at the University of Saskatchewan in the Regional and Urban Planning Program. He is an active human in his community of Saskatoon as a Peer Health Educator through “Healing Our Nations” and as a volunteer at the University of Saskatchewan Student Union’s Pride Centre. His goal in life is simply to help people and lead by positive example.
Kaytee Edwards Buhler is prairie born and raised and currently resides on a farm in Osler, Saskatchewan with her partner Chris. Her passions include working for wholeness in her community, refugee issues, food security and the rights of children and youth. Her post-secondary studies were in International Development and Religious Traditions. She currently works for an Anabaptist NGO in Saskatoon where she is given opportunity to pursue justice through programs that work with international young adults and newcomer and indigenous children and youth.
Nothing makes her happier than being with friends around a dinner table and hanging out with the awesome kids she works with.
To her one of the most important things in life is community, a place to belong and find support and healing. She hopes the Next Up community can become another place where she and the other members find encouragement and support in their pursuit of making the world a better place.
Justin was born and raised in Saskatoon and identifies deeply with the Saskatchewan landscape. However, he has in the past attempted to escape, and succeeded in living abroad for a couple of years as he attended graduate school in London. There he was absorbed by a lively and diverse activist culture and became involved in a number of environmentally-focused initiatives, including helping to run a local fossil fuel divestment campaign. He was super pleased upon returning to Saskatoon to realize that such a culture existed at home as well! Justin has long been concerned about climate change and is increasingly passionate about examining and addressing the intersection of social and environmental justice issues. He also loves people, places, cooking, history, cycling and playing sports. He’s an unimpressive but enthusiastic outdoors person and especially loves hiking through wilderness.
Hanah, originally from Regina, moved to Saskatoon in 2013 after travelling in New Zealand and spending time in Vancouver studying yoga. Around this time, her deep interest in social activism sparked. She currently studies Social Work and has a personal interest in the de-stigmatization of addictions and mental illness. Hanah hopes to blend the holistic healing of yoga and the compassionate social work profession into a sustainable life that supports others’ empowerment and self-determination. She is especially interested in learning from Indigenous elders and other community members how her yoga teachings can relate to Indigenous spirituality and sovereignty. Hanah is committed to building bridges between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples and continues to grow on her journey as an ally. For fun, she loves to play outdoors, write poetry, dance, and sing with anyone who will join her.